Seaweed expert Dolly Garza to give presentation April 27 at UAS Sitka Campus

Dolly Garza, Ph.D., will give a presentation on common edible seaweeds and intertidal beach foods at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

Garza, the author of Common Edible Seaweeds in the Gulf of Alaska, is a retired professor with the Alaska Sea Grant program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. A Haida-Tlingít, Garza was born in Ketchikan, where she grew up harvesting seaweed and other intertidal beach foods. She taught seaweed workshops across Alaska during her tenure with the Alaska Sea Grant program, and now lives in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada, where she is a textile artist, basket weaver and raven’s tail weaver.

The presentation is sponsored by the UAS Sitka Campus, Sitka Sound Science Center, and National Park Service. A few samples to try will be available after the talk. For more information, email Kitty LaBounty at kllabounty@alaska.edu.

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• New ‘Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska’ will help Sitka residents identify various types of seaweeds

Alaska Natives have been gathering seaweeds and other sea vegetables for centuries, with the seaweeds providing an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. There are dozens of types of seaweeds available in Alaska, and most of them are edible.

The Alaska Sea Grant program from the University of Alaska Fairbanks recently released a new book by Mandy R. Lindeberg and Sandra C. Lindstrom called “Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska.” This book is billed as the first and only field guide to more than 100 common seaweeds, seagrasses and marine lichens of Alaska. The book features color photos, written descriptions and it is printed on water-resistant paper.

As part of the Sitka WhaleFest Maritime Market this weekend, one of the authors (Lindeberg) will be in Sitka signing copies of the new guide at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Old Harbor Books booth at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Lindeberg is a self-proclaimed “nerdy” Juneau biologist who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service Auke Bay Laboratory.

Mandy Lindeberg

Mandy Lindeberg

Lindeberg spent nearly 15 years working on the book with the help of Lindstrom, a professor and researcher in botany and marine ecology at the University of British Columbia who was born and raised in Juneau. Lindeberg took about 80 percent of the photos in the book, hoping to come up with enough decent images so scientists and naturalists had more than the sometimes-hard-to-decipher drawings found in most previous books, while Lindstrom helped with the taxonomic work and reviewed the scientific descriptions.

Lindeberg said the new guidebook will help people be able to better identify the types of seaweeds when they are out gathering (Editor’s note, federal and state subsistence laws prohibit the gathering of seaweed in urban nonsubsistence areas such as Juneau/Douglas and Ketchikan/Saxman, but seaweed gathering is legal in rural areas of Alaska including Sitka and most other Southeast Alaska communities, including areas just outside Juneau/Douglas and Ketchikan/Saxman).

Lindeberg said her guidebook will help people identify the various types of seaweeds, but it does not discuss which seaweeds are edible and how to prepare them, so people might want to use it with another Alaska Sea Grant book, “Common Edible Seaweeds in the Gulf of Alaska,” by Dolly Garza. The new “Field Guide to Seaweeds In Alaska” costs $30 and is available at Old Harbor Books or through the Alaska Sea Grant program’s online bookstore.

• Wealth of resources available to learn about traditional foods

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

Living in Southeast Alaska, Sitka residents are exposed to a wealth of traditional foods that grow in our forests or can be found along our beaches. But many Sitka residents aren’t familiar with which plants are safe to eat, and which plants they should avoid. They also aren’t familiar with when are the prime times to gather certain plants.

In recent years, several books have been published to help teach people more about traditional plants and how they can be used. There also have been other groups, such as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Kayaaní Commission, the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, that have posted traditional plant information online, including complete curriculum outlines for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Some of the more popular books used in Sitka (many of these can be found at Old Harbor Books) include:

  • Wild Edible & Medicinal Plants: Alaska, Canada & Pacific Northwest Rainforest: An Introductory Pocket Trail Guide (Volumes 1 and 2) by Carol R. Biggs
  • Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00028)
  • Collecting and Using Alaska’s Wild Berries and Other Wild Products by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00120)

In addition to these books, the Sealaska Heritage Institute has created curriculum resources using the Tlingít and Haida languages that are built around using traditional foods (links on language names go to Grades K-2 versions, but upper-lever courses available on main curriculum link). Examples of the Tlingít and Haida Grade K-2 courses for Plants are linked below as PDF documents, but there also are separate courses for beach greens, berries, cedar trees, hemlock trees, spruce trees, herring, hooligan, salmon, sea mammals, as well as for other cultural knowledge such as canoes, totem poles and Elizabeth Peratrovich.

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network also some curriculum resources posted online for Tlingít, Haida and Tsimshian culture, including some by Sitka teacher Pauline Duncan. The Alaska Native Plant Society has some information on traditional plant use, but the group is geared more toward the Anchorage area. The Alaska Natural History Program publishes an online Alaska Rare Plant Field Guide. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has online and printed guides available on plant identification, berries and berry use, and even has online tutorials about how to home can jams and jellies.

On a related note, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes Program will be turning its focus to traditional living classes for 2011. The program will focus on traditional foods and activities to teach its Native patients and other community members how to prevent and manage their diabetes (the SEARHC Diabetes Program operates throughout Southeast Alaska, not just in Sitka). The SEARHC Diabetes Program is looking for resident experts in traditional living (fishing, hunting, gathering, preparation, storage, gardening, etc.) who can help teach these skills to others. The program also wants to learn what types of classes people want to see offered in their communities. For more information, contact SEARHC Health Educator Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

Sealaska Heritage Institute Tlingít plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

Sealaska Heritage Institute Haida plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

UAF Cooperative Extension Service Native Plants of Alaska page on devil’s club

Nellie’s Recipes: An ANTHC (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium) Traditional Food Cookbook for Assisted Living Homes

Alaska Traditional Food Resources (list from Eat Smart Alaska program run by Alaska Division of Public Health)